Sunday, 17 February 2013

Wet plate imperfections (1). Silver lines.

Imperfections or better - artefacts  are so unique in the wet plate process that they are the main reason which draws photographers and artists into it.
At the beginning of the journey with wet plate they seem to be unexpected and mysterious, usually welcomed eagerly, adding a new dimension to the work. /Of course not always and not all of them , it is still the artist who decides if the 'accident' that happened adds something special to the photograph./
Some artists stay with this approach and do not seek for a perfect clean plates (not looking too far - Sally Mann could be a great example). Some are creating dirty plates on purpose, adding dust and dirt or even blood or fingertips ( so many options open!)

After a while of working with collodion each photographer realises, that even if he or she doesn't have a background or deep understanding of chemistry, the 'mystery' faults have reasons and are, to some extent, controllable. And this is when a big journey starts.
Over a time of using wet plate, photographers  learn to approach difficulties systematicly, selecting and eliminating elements that can cause the fault. The knowledge of the process is the ability to solve the problem and it is not always easy.

Unfortunately it is very difficult to source images  showing and explaining different artefacts and faults of the collodion process. All what is offered in literature is a written description and I found it difficult to recognise which description suits best to the problem I had at the time.

I started to collect the images showing different problems and would like to show a few examples of more typical faults, characteristic for collodion technique.

I would like to start with one of the simplest examples - silver lines.

Lines, bubbles, lace like or organic patterns - these marks are created when it comes to rapid and uneven coverege of the plate with silver nitrate sensitizing solution. They are more likely to happen when using a tray for sensitizing and this is the reason why it is usefull to have a special vertical tank with a dipper for this step of the process.
Sensitizing in a tray can result in this type of image:

The following plate was accidentaly droped  into a tray with silver nitrate, it slipped out from my hands, when working with darkbox on location. Splash caused bubbles and stains (centre of the image):

And one more, more subtle example - on the left bottom edge the lace like pattern shows that tray was used this time as well: